Last night, I went and sat in on Mike Prigodich's gig at Ivories.

I went to list en, but Prigodich asked me to sit in; first on drums, then on piano. He made me sight read some of his music, which was pretty challenging fusionesque material. I made it through, but I left feeling as though my sight reading had atrophied a lot. The other musicians and audience seemed to think it was ok, but I know be tter. The question is, will I be able to improve? Teaching full time, being a pa rent, and playing gigs doesn't leave much time in the schedule for extra practic e. The late Vince Loving I think sight reading is a very valuable skill, although in some ways, it is mis understood. First of all, some musicians really develop their ears, and never sp end the time learning to read in more than a rudimental way. I don't think that those musicians should be thought of as less skilled. It's more like being diffe rently skilled. For example, if you can hear, then you theoretically don't need to be able to read, because as long as you can memorize, you can really learn th e music. (Years ago, I played on a recording led by guitarist Cheryl Bailey. Th e bassist was the late Vince Loving, a great musician from Baltimore. There were charts for every tune, but Bailey would just demonstrate Loving's bass parts, a nd he would just play them back to her, and then he would memorize them. He was the only one of us not looking at charts during the recording!) I believe the e ars should always trump the eyes. That's why composer Raymond Scott always taugh t his musicians by ear, instead of giving them charts. It looks more professiona l when the musicians aren't reading, right? There's a funny bit by underrated comedian Todd Barry, where he talks about seei ng Aerosmith performing with the London Symphony. He thought it was weird that A erosmith had no sheet music, while the conservatory trained London Symphony need ed sheet music for such simple music! He imagines the strained thoughts of the o rchestra members: " A major...uh, oh, A MINOR?" I think he actually has a point in that be able to read it might actually make us lazy. Written music can be a c rutch. Lonnie Plaxico Lonnie Plaxico, who also has amazing ears, always told us that Art Blakey never allowed musicians to read on the bandstand. So when I was in Plaxico's band, he tried to insist that we wouldn't use charts. My parts were so difficult that I H AD to memorize them in order to play them. Admittedly, Plaxico's charts were muc h more technically demanding than say, Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'." Still, it makes for a better performance if you really KNOW the music. I suppose I'm off on a tangent about memorizing. I think it's important to devel op that skill as well. One of my piano students at the University of Manitoba br ought in Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance" to a lesson. I had assigned this month s prior, and asked him why he hadn't memorized it. " Well, if you hadn't played this tune in a while, would you REALLY be able to play it from memory?" "Of COUR SE!" I exclaimed. "Maybe there's something else which is holding you back? You d o realize that Cannabis has an effect on memory?" My student stuck his tongue ou t at me.... However, being able to sight read well can make things go much faster in the stu dio, or on a gig if there is no chance for rehearsal, or if there is no recordin g of the piece, etc...I've always envied musicians that could really read well. As a trumpet student at Peabody Conservatory, I met many great classical piano s tudents who seemed to be able to sight read anything you put in front of them. I had a pianist roommate for a brief time who seemed to be a flawless reader. I a ctually tried to write something really impossible, to see if he couldn't read i t. He didn't bat an eye and played it down flawlessly. So much for that. I was a decent sight reader on trumpet, but trumpet only requires that you read

but it will help you to plan ahead. I've mentioned before in this blog that there are many misconceptions about jazz musicians. and just played by ear. Jr. Plus. or what it sounds like. The only criteria is that you've never seen it before. Helen Sung. and you are looking at it like R on Burgundy from Anchorman. which he had been assigned a month earlier. and Drew could just READ it like the mornin g paper. You'd be surprised how many jazz musicians can read BETTER than clas sical musicians. David Ka ne.. regardless of the color of the musicians. and my wife Kerry Politzer as well. etc. and reading them as if he had been preparing the music for 6 mon ths. "Come back in a week and be able to improvise. Piano can be a much more challenging proposition." James Reese Europe If you watch the Ken Burns "Jazz". Unfor tunately. you can react before it's too late. he can take the music home and maybe in a week or a month. Kenny Drew. not just focused on the r oad in front of you. Don't worry about what it is. Check f or key changes. Look over the music just before you start and find the trouble spots. But there is one guy who is hands down(n o pun intended) the best sight reader I have ever seen. dig out sheet music from your attic. ("He'll read anything that's written on there!") 3. You are now a sight reading robot... you can't give a non-improvising classical musician a jazz tune and sa y. you always have to keep your eyes far ahead. Try to sight read brand new music everyday. And these weren't simple tunes.. or whether you like it. It's kind of like drivi ng a car.American musicians were considered cra ck readers. This was piano acrobatics. You will read anything that is put in front of you. 4. "He'll read anything that's on the teleprompter" 2. borrow some books from your friends. and how these African. I seriously thought about quitting the piano that day. One of my classmates was trumpe ter Alex Norris. "They could read a moving snake! If a fly landed on the page. Go to the music library. even if a jazz musici an doesn't read on par with a classical musician. why don't you sight read his piece?" Norris expertly sightread the music wh ich the other fellow was unable to play at all after working on it for a month! Talk about intimidating. That way. And keep your eyes on the mus ic Think of the music page as the teleprompter. Ethan Iverson. this was HARD 20th Century Russian piano li terature. during one masterclass. whatever. Don't look at your hands.) How can you follow the music if you keep looking down at you r hands! Learn to play by feel as much as you can. And yet. I think some of those attitudes remai n. come back and play on par with classical musicians. There are a bunch of other jazz pianists who sight read on the le vel I wish I could achieve. It's a different level of alertness. lots of 16th notes. I witnes sed him bringing a stack of music books from Pedelsen's in New York. Cameron said. My teacher Wayne Cameron helped us with our sight reading. the white audiences just assumed that because they were black that the y had no training. another trumpet student declined to pla y a solo line at a time. Jr. there is an entire segment on the James Reese Europe Orchestra.. Kenny Drew. weird rhythms. Look as far ahead as you can while you play. he got PLAYED!" But they would memorize everything and play without sheet music. and I'm still nowhere near where I wou ld like to be. I had to really work on my sight reading. This is tricky. Mr. Especially when it comes to rhythm. The top 6 things you can do to improve your sight reading are as follows: 1. "A lex. putting the m on the piano.. Geoffrey Keezer. look at the music!( I realize this doesn't apply to every instrument. Same with sig . just so you have a fig hting chance before you put the pedal to the metal.

It will help you develop yo ur reflexes. you might have to le ave some notes out in order to keep the time. 5. Maybe spen d 10 fewer minutes on Facebook and sit down and sight read a new piece. Especially with pianists. keep the tempo and don't worry about wrong notes. Try it next time you read and see if it helps. Basically. and hopefully it will help you to play faster with accuracy in the long run." But it's a good skill to have. This will help you with your accuracy. 6. The best sight readers read one or two systems ahead. Just 10 minutes a day can help. Good luck. let alon e a few bars ahead. This is especially important for professional playing. You need to play it up to speed. and will give you an idea of just ho w slowly you need to play to get everything perfect. be patient. You migh t surprise yourself if you keep at it. because there is n o time in the studio or in some accompanying situations to perfect every nuance. this is known as "fakin g it. . Sight read and set the metronome. Sight read and play so slowly or out of time that you don't play any wrong no reading music. and above all.

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